#12 Books of Christmas - The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Welcome to Day 9 of #12 Books of Christmas
Missed any? I've listed them for you below.
Day 1 - Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
Day 2 - The Box of Delights by John Masefield
Day 3 - The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan
Day 4 - Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
Day 5 - The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater
Day 6 - Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
Day 7 - A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan
Day 8 - Village Christmas by Miss Read
There is so much about Christmas that is about memory. Memories of funny events, Christmas decorations made lovingly in Primary School and placed on the tree, games, movies, the 'Big' Christmas film, visits from relatives, Christmas walks. It all forms part of our personal Christmas tapestry. One Christmas, my Grandparents stayed with us and I remember being allowed to stay up a whole hour later on Christmas Eve because Flash Gordon was on the TV. Best of all because my Grandparents were visiting, I had to share a bedroom with my sister. For me this was brilliant, especially as I was already giddy with the arrival of Santa. We also read 'The Dark is Rising' by Susan Cooper together, which is set at Christmas and I always read this over the Christmas period. This novel features in my Top 10 favourite novels and I think it is largely down to memory as to why.
The Dark is Rising is the 2nd book in The Dark is Rising sequence and is perfect for 8-11 year olds. The first book is Over Sea, Under Stone, but you are absolutely fine to read The Dark is Rising as a stand alone novel. I certainly did. Over Sea, Under Stone features a different set of children. Also, the film of the book, The Seeker, is very different to the novel and I would be tempted to give the film a miss.
On his 11th birthday, Will discovers he is the last of the Old Ones of the light and is tasked with finding 6 signs to be used in the fight against the dark. With Merriman as his guide, he must search for these mystical talismans over the Christmas period, whilst still remaining a boy, the youngest in his family as he travels through time. Meanwhile the Dark is rising and they will stop at nothing to thwart him.
Susan Cooper was heavily influenced by the work of another #12 Books of Christmas The Box of Delights. Having read both recently, I can really see this as both novels concern themselves with British Mythology. The Dark is Rising features John Wayland Smith, Herne the Hunter and Wild Hunt as well as the etymology of road names long forgotten. It gives a mystical quality to the novel and there is something other worldly about things that are long forgotten yet deeply entrenched in our bones; our fear of the biting cold, the warmth of candlelight in the dark and the memory of ancient things lost.
Will is a great character, a young boy at heart, but with the old manners and wisdom. I adore his family - a huge family at Christmas with wise older brothers and cheeky James all following Christmas traditions. It is a peak into another family's Christmas and their traditions and I love it - the chopping down of the Christmas tree, making paper streamers, the yule log and the decorations carved for each child born into the family.
When I was at University, I had a good friend who lived in the Windsor Great Park. She told me (true or not) that on the 12th Night after Christmas, all the animals would be brought under cover as it was reputed that Herne and the Wild Hunt would ride. Any animal that witnessed this would quickly become gravely ill. She loved The Dark is Rising as much as I did which depicts the Wild Hunt. As I say, sometimes ancient memory remains in our bones.
So I have such love for this book, the Christmas memories of reading it with my sis, learning about folklore and tradition. It is truly a magical book. I love it.
I'll be back tomorrow for another #12 Books of Christmas. I would suggest having your hankies at the ready.